We all live in a world of conflicts. I am particularly sensitive about conflicts due to the roles I have at Cayuga Venture Fund and Cornell. I think that everyone should conduct business in a way that will not provide fodder for an unsavory newspaper article. All the recent press about Theranos is a great example of this. Regardless of your views on situations like Theranos, it is likely that some of what you might read in the newspaper is true.
You might call me naive, but my approach to competing accounts of juicy situations is that there is probably some truth in both sides. This applies to all sorts of situations, be it feuding companies or feuding people.
So, this morning my wife forwarded me an article on Hampton Creek, “Hampton Creek Ran Undercover Project to Buy Up Its Own Vegan Mayo”. Now, my wife loves Hampton Creek Mayo, but even this one caught her attention enough to forward to me. Furthermore, the company’s CEO is a Cornellian (yes, I knew him when he was a student). The article claims that Hampton Creek had a systematic program of having its employees and contractors literally buy lots of product off store shelves thereby inflating velocities (i.e., how fast a store sells a given product typically measured in units/cases per week) and effectively overstating sales. Hampton Creek has raised millions and millions of dollars from VCs and wealthy investors……and this is not the type of press that any investor wants to see.
Without saying much more, this type of practice would and should produce a media frenzy. I am picturing myself in the management meeting when this idea first came up. “Hey, let’s buy up lots of product under the guise of quality control.” Kind of ridiculous. Ok, not “kind of”, just ridiculous. Note: for all I know, the company’s board of directors approved the plan. I have no idea.
And I have no clue as to the merits of the press’s coverage or the company’s position. I have only read one article on this. The lesson though is simple: if some plan or proposed action leaves a bad taste in your mouth then don’t do it. Chances are it will back fire. Said another way, if something smells like rotten mayo, then don’t eat it.
I believe that being transparent and dealing with people who are transparent is a proven road to overall success and achievement. Sometimes I am overly direct and have been criticized for it. Yet, trust is a fundamental pillar of relationships. If you sense any pang of distrust in someone you are dealing with then trust your own instincts.
In the meantime, go buy some mayo!